Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week 1 and loving it.

What a week.

I cannot believe that just 7 days ago I was settling into my new home in Pinetop, Arizona. I thought it would take a while to get settled in, to feel right and at place here, but in truth it feels like I have been here for months. I jumped right in and already love everything about being here.

This first week was definitely tiring, but rewarding. Each day I tried my hardest to be cool even though I am "old" (a student's word for me!) and although I probably tried a little to hard (ex. "Hey dog, what's up g?") I managed to make some friends among our students and begin to connect. In addition, I have also begun to build relationships with key people around the reservation, thanks to the networking skills of my fearless leader at AYM. It will take a while to truly know this place, but this week has been a great start.

I have to say, I love spending my afternoons at the Kennel, goofing around, hanging out with students, and getting to know their names and faces. I was so pleased when we took a few of our kids to the football game their high school was playing up where I live and I heard my name called in a crowd. One of the students that hadn't come with us, but who I had recently met at the Kennel, had seen me and wanted to say hello. It was like someone had just given me a prize. I was so excited to see that God had blessed me with a little bit of favor just in my first week here. It may be small, but the fact that girls are talking to me about their high school crush, their family situation, and their volleyball team is all a great start. God is going to move mightily among this generation and on this reservation, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

Keep me in prayer as I continue to grow in friendship with our students, and as I seek to find the balance between ministry and personal time. I will send out a newsletter soon with more information, so send me your email address if you would like to be included on that as well.

Thank you for your thoughts, your prayers, and your support. I am exactly where I need to be and I am loving every minute of working on the rez (well, except for the moment when I couldn't figure out why the cheese we use to sell cheese fries at the Kennel was still cold after an hour. Turns out I never plugged it in.) 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Smell of Winter and Comfort

My new neighborhood smells like Christmas and toasted marshmallows. Just one whiff and you are drawn into a world of winter, bonfires, and a deep sense of comfort. I think I may have found my dream home.

Today I woke up to the smell of a fall breeze coming through my window and then just moments later the rain started to pour. Rain, hail, the chill in the air. . . I was thrilled. I threw on my rain outfit and headed into town. I was getting a lot of extra long stares in the grocery store and was priding myself in looking extra cute today, but then realized that they were probably just wondering who the new girl in the bright yellow rain jacket and red boots was. I'll take it.

Then this afternoon I took some time to walk around the neighborhood loop, listening to the rustle of the pine trees and the quiet that only seems to exist in the mountains. All day I have been struck by the comfort that I feel here. Though transitions are not easy, as I have settled in these last few days I have felt within my entire being that this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I feel a pervading sense of happiness as I take in my surroundings of this new place to call home. And when the rain stopped and I headed to my back porch to read a book about a quaint Irish country doctor, I felt truly at home.

Even this sign I found on my walk made me feel kind of excited, like I'm outdoorsy and on an adventure. (But don't worry, I won't go looking for bears after dark). 

What joy to know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. This is what I am supposed to be doing, and I know because I have never in my life felt so much peace and happiness about a new place. And the fact that I get to wear cute winter boots, heavy scarves and adorable little hats is definitely an excellent added bonus. Because I gotta say, what's the harm in working hard serving the Lord and looking good doing it? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Art of Departure

2 years I began a blog with adventure in mind. God had changed a lot in a little amount of time, and this was the place to record all that came to be. As the months passed and the blog continued, it seemed that, in a way, this site had become a record of departures. In 2011 I left for India and then a month later left for California. What followed was a significant departure for Arizona and finally, leaving the place I had arrived at just two years ago, I returned to Georgia.

In just two short years I embarked on a moving train of change four separate times. Each departure was significant, life-changing, and not without its difficulties. Each led to adventure, discovery, passion, and growth, but brought their own share of challenges and baggage.

And as I reflect back, I can see that what has been beautiful about all of these departures is that they have led to places and journeys that have formed me. Every chapter has helped to lead me to the station at which I stand today. A new chapter, a new adventure is now beginning, and there is no telling how it will alter my life, my person, and my heart. I am confident that I will not come out of this one unscathed. I know that the next time I have a chance to look back, to remember this day, it will not be the same eyes that see or the same person that reflects. These journeys have been risky, far riskier than I would have ever chosen on my own, but I wouldn't change a thing.

There is a certain beauty in coming and going. I think it lies in the mixture of love and loss, old and new, being and yet not being. It is a wealth of emotions to be connected in so many places, and the beauty intermixes with the challenges to create something far more profound than we originally set out to imagine. We have one life to live, and I have chosen to live mine as a nomad, a wanderer with a purpose, a follower of faith and a seeker of adventure. I have chosen to leave loved ones behind and serve God wherever He calls me, from India, to California, to Arizona.

Sure, I stride onto the awaiting plane with a strong mix of apprehension, excitement, anxiety, and anticipation, but I know that this adventure will be worth it. I know that this is the start of something new, and that the view painted beyond the horizon will be transformative. 



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dilemmas

Dilemmas, a key component of life. Today I have two, or three, and they are basically all insignificant. But read on my friends, read on.

1. Having finally finished the "student" phase of my life (20 years baby!) I am now faced with a new conundrum- the doctor's office paperwork. In the convenient little box named "occupation" I always got to bypass any silly questions about ambition or relevance and simply put "student" but alas, now that is not an option. A new dilemma has arisen for the first time in 24 years! It is has been pretty hard to decide what my perfect new title shall be. Youth mentor was my latest pick, but I feel like I can do better, you know? I considered "holistic development practitioner" but that wouldn't fit in the box, and "youth minister" or "missionary" don't sound quite right either (although both of those options did get me a discount on my future dental work. woot woot!). The latest is "Apache youth advocate" but who knows, most likely every form I write in the US this year is going to have a different job title. I'm a grown-up. I guess I do what I want.

2. Transitions. I don't go to sleep early, but I've read a bunch of books, watched all the episodes of House Hunters International, finished my fundraising, finished my schoolwork, and I don't have a job (for three more days). I am definitely getting tired (although not literally, ha. ha.) of this little transitory stage. So I guess it is good to move on! But this is a whole new thing and the future is like a path up a mountain where I can't see more than five feet in front of me. I have to live day by day, but man, this little unknown, new job, new home, new place thing. . . not really my style. I know I gotta trust God in this, and I am super pumped, its just a weird little stage.

3. Also, I would like some cheesecake in the near future. But that's not really a dilemma, is it?

Well, there you have it. My I'm-basically-a-grown-up-but-not-really dilemmas. I think its high time I get to work, don't you? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In this world there is trouble...

But take heart, He has overcome the world. 

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most significant memories of my childhood. As a 7th grader I stood behind the wall in our little hallway, secretly watching the television as people dropped from the burning buildings. In that moment I knew that I was witnessing history. What I did not realize at such a young age was that this was just one atrocity among thousands that happen every year all over the world. It is one of the hard parts of growing up I suppose. One suddenly realizes the extent to which the world is full of evil and death. My heart becomes quickly overwhelmed with the suffering of people I would consider brothers and sisters around the world. I try my best not to support these evils, working to buy fair trade, avoiding companies that I know have connections to slave labor, but I know that each little movement is just a small drop in a much larger ocean of injustice.

Recently I have been reading a fantastic group of novels about a heroine spy named Maggie Hope. I love these novels, set during the Second World War. The one thing about these books though, is that they do not mince words about the terrible things that occurred in the world during that time. And as I finish each novel I am left with a pervading sadness for every life that has been lost in war, in combat, in attempts at power. I am reminded that today, in places such as Syria, many innocent people, many Christians, are fighting for their lives, losing their loved ones, even their children. I can picture the faces of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, all over the world, fighting each day to believe that there is salvation, that there is a future filled with hope and opportunity. I try to put myself in their place, feeling just the smallest iota of the pain I know they feel each day.

My aim is not to make us all feel sad and helpless in a broken world, it is simply to allow us a moment to recognize that this world is not as it should be. As Christians it is tempting to sit back and say that our effort would barely make a dent, or that God has it in control, and He does! But perhaps His control includes us taking action. Action in the form of intercessory prayer, in changing our buying habits, in figuring out ways to help the hurting in our own communities. It just takes something we might see as small to send ripple effects of God's love and truth to a broken and hurting world.

For me, this means spending the extra dollars to only buy fair trade chocolate, thereby choosing not to support the biggest forced-labor industry in the world (cocoa production). In my life, this means trying to be more intentional to intercede in prayer for those who suffer around the world each day. It means going to bed each night grateful for my circumstances, but not complacent in comfort. It is embracing these small things as worth it, worth it for the bigger picture, because this is what I, as a Christian, am called to do. This world is not as it should be, so let's set out to make it better, one small action at a time. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kentucky to Carolina

If you asked me where I have been for the past week it would be easy to describe. It has been a porch-sitting kind of week, where the breeze or the rain drop in to say hello, enveloping you in a familiar sense of peace and provision. It has been a week where every moment makes it seem like, at least in this little corner, all is right and well.

This past week I have traveled from North Carolina to Northern Kentucky and every moment has been treasured. I have been falling in love with tomato and goat cheese sandwiches, buying local cheese curds from a roadside stand, and breathing in fresh mountain air. I have been sitting on a porch swing in the Carolina mountains swapping stories of international adventures and memories of younger days with my grandparents, my mother, and my brother. I have been retracing my family roots as we discovered old pictures of bearded ancestors, the weddings of my grandparents, bell-bottomed pants, and trips around the world or simply around the farm.

I have been blessed by memories, quality time, country mountain churches, and rolling hills. I have visited the places of my childhood and reminisced on rainy days. I have been from Carolina to Kentucky, walking through the history of my family, remembering my roots, and refueling my soul. In short, it has been a good week.

A few days ago I was sitting on the back lawn of my great aunt's house with a gentle breeze sweeping my face, like a million quiet memories whispering, "will you remember us?" As I gazed out at the apple tree and listened to the train pass, I wondered what stories this house could tell. I got to hear a few of them as I sat up late with my 87 year-old aunt the night before. We had talked through lost loves, past heartbreaks, and the twinkle in the eye of happy days gone by. And I realized something as I spent these precious moments with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I realized that I am part of a beautiful legacy, of amazing people who have walked this earth in great faith, with hard work and determination thrown in for good measure.

I realized as I traveled all of those miles that I am a part of something much bigger than myself. It felt like the roads were preparing me, telling me that this was just the beginning. Something radical is about to happen, and each moment with my extended family made me stand a little straighter as my bones got stronger and the wind whispered "get ready. Your time is now. Your time is here." It was thrilling really, in the quiet way that makes your heart beat just the slightest bit faster in anticipation of something you can't quite see.

So now seems as good a time as ever to tell you that we have made it. The time really has come. As of this weekend I have officially reached my send-off point, where my budget has been accounted for and my support has been raised. God has been faithful beyond my greatest imagination and you all have responded to the call in a way that I never would have guessed. Together we have made it, and now off I go. In a week and a half, on September the 19th I will board a plane and begin God's work that He has set out for me. We don't know what the days will hold, but this we do know: that something is about to happen, and God has used all of us to get there.